Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican who is currently the subject of a Justice Department investigation into whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and transported her across state lines in violation of sex trafficking laws, is considering a run for president in 2024.
Gaetz made that disclosure Wednesday in a text message to the New York Post.
“I support Donald Trump for president. I’ve directly encouraged him to run and he gives me every indication he will,” Gaetz told the paper. “If Trump doesn’t run, I’m sure I could defeat whatever remains of Joe Biden by 2024.”
One of Trump’s most vocal supporters in Congress, Gaetz has embarked on an “America First” speaking tour alongside Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., that has all the hallmarks of a budding presidential campaign, albeit one that also helps lay the groundwork for Trump’s possible run in 2024.
In Mesa, Ariz., last week, Gaetz, 39, sounded very much like a candidate ready to inherit Trump's mantle, should the 74-year-old former president decide to spend his retirement playing golf.
“Thousands of miles away in the swamp of Washington, they kind of hope that this was all over, that our populist little revolt would run away and no longer be a part of our national identity,” Gaetz told his audience. “Oh, we are just starting.”
While Gaetz often presented his worldview as indistinguishable from that of Trump, his stump speech also carves out some room for him to sound like a more traditional Republican.
“It’s been too many years since an inspirational President Ronald Reagan told us that it was ‘morning in America again.’ Too often now it seems like it’s twilight for Joe Biden. If it was morning in America under Reagan, it sort of seems like nap time in America when Joe Biden is the president. I think it’s about time to wake up our fellow countrymen,” Gaetz said while imploring a “new generation of patriots” to get involved in politics.
Clouding Gaetz’s presidential aspirations, federal prosecutors have recently secured a cooperation agreement from his friend Joel Greenberg, who has already pleaded guilty to some of the same crimes for which Gaetz finds himself under investigation. To date, the congressman has not been charged or indicted, and he has denied all the allegations made against him, including that he regularly paid for sex.
“I’m falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors,” Gaetz said at an Ohio meeting of Republicans in May. “Yet Congress has reinstituted a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors, through earmarks, and everybody knows that’s the corruption.”
Whether Attorney General Merrick Garland decides to proceed with an indictment against Gaetz remains to be seen. But with the belief among Republicans that all investigations targeting pro-Trump politicians amount to a “witch hunt,” a term Gaetz has echoed in reference to the allegations against him, even formal charges of sex trafficking may not preclude him from seeking the highest office in the land.
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